Pictured, from left to right: Open Markets Institute legal director Sandeep Vaheesan, Stanford University economics professor Anat Admati, and Stanford University political science professor Margaret Levi
After a year of convening smaller, targeted meetings in Silicon Valley, INET’s Center for Innovation, Growth and Society held its first conference this month. Entitled “Too Deep to Fail: Big Tech and Civil Society,” the gathering brought together economists, legal scholars and tech leaders to explore increasing levels of economic concentration—in particular in the tech sector.
“With new concerns over technology platforms arising every day, it is essential that technologists, regulators, legal scholars, economists, and consumer advocates have an impartial place to work constructively toward better solutions,” said Pia Malaney the Center’s director who led the meeting. “We are happy to be positioned to meet that need—and the response of the various communities has been better than we could have hoped for.”
Participants at the conference included INET President Rob Johnson, Nobel laureate economist Michael Spence, Stanford University economics professor Anat Admati, and other leading thinkers and practitioners in tech from academia, business, and the nonprofit/NGO sector.
Rising levels of inequality, threats to free speech and even the fraying of our democracy’s fabric have been laid at the doorstep of tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. While there have been increasing calls for regulation, there is a need to understand what that will mean in this context. For example, legal scholar Lina Khan points out that traditional antitrust regulations focus on competition as seen in traditional markets, using the standard of “price competition” to determine monopoly power. What does this mean when the “price” on some of these products, e.g. search, are set at zero, and the anti-competitive practices take place in a different product market? There is a clear need to rethink our regulatory structures to address the changing nature of economic concentration in firms that span different markets, where monopoly power may be used to drive traffic to a different product.
The conference highlighted the need for collaboration between Society, Tech, Academia and Regulatory bodies (STAR) in order to effectively address the social, political and economic ramifications of economic concentration in an industry often characterized by increasing returns to scale.